Pilsen teens promote peace through 'We are hip hop' festival

August 9, 2013 (CHICAGO)

The teens hope to use music and other artistic expressions to tell their peers to put the guns down and stop the violence. These students are doing what many of them love the most: creating art.

"I like to learn new things about art. I love art since I was like seven years old so I want to keep going," said James Barrett, 18.

They get free arts education after school and during the summer through a non-profit called Elevarte Community Studio. All summer, the teens have been working hard to plan a culminating event themed "We are hip hop."

"Hip hop was a main element here for these students and from there it just became dedicated to showcasing their artwork and dedicating their time and effort over the summer to keep them out of trouble and really promote peace," said Lizette Garza, coordinator, Elevarte Community Studio.

"It's entirely youth-run. We have to go out and speak to these people and be like this is what our festival is all about. This is what we do," said Aleax Mejia, 18.

In addition to planning and promotion, students are working on a mural project in memory of a local hip-hop artist known as J-Def. He died due to gun violence in 2011. Students hope their efforts to promote peace will prevent more tragedies.

"We put messages into the artwork that we do, like for example, the simple word peace they can just look at it and we put images in our art like, for example, the fist that we just did shows how the community of Pilsen needs to be strong for whatever happens in their community. They have to stay together," said Daisy Tlatenchi, 16.

The "We are hip hop" festival will feature positive rappers, breakdancing and a graffiti battle. It's being held Saturday, August 10 in the back fields of Dvorak Park.


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